Love to play water sports like surfing or bodyboarding? Beware, you may be three times more likely to swallow antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli or E.coli bacteria in your guts, new research has revealed.
Surfers were found to swallow ten times more sea water than sea swimmers, making them more vulnerable to E.coli bacteria.
Regular surfers were also found four times as likely to harbour bacteria that contain mobile genes that make bacteria resistant to the antibiotic.
This is significant because the genes can be passed between bacteria — potentially spreading the ability to resist antibiotic treatment between bacteria, the researchers said.
“Antimicrobial resistance has been globally recognised as one of the greatest health challenges of our time, and there is now an increasing focus on how resistance can be spread through our natural environments,” said Anne Leonard, from the University of Exeter.
Scientists compared faecal samples from 300 surfers and non-surfers to assess whether the surfers’ guts contained E.coli bacteria that were able to grow in the presence of cefotaxime.
The study, published in the journal Environment International, found that 13 of 143 (9 %) of surfers were colonised by these resistant bacteria, compared to just four of 130 (3 %) of non-surfers swabbed.
A treatment with cefotaxime — a commonly used and clinically important antibiotic previously prescribed to kill off E.coli bacteria — showed that the bacteria has acquired genes that enable them to survive this treatment, the study showed.
According to the 2016 O’Neill report commissioned by the UK government, antimicrobial resistant infections could kill one person every three seconds by the year 2050 if current trends continue.
There is an urgent need to curb antibiotic-resistance or else we may be entering an era in which antibiotics are no longer effective to kill simple, and previously treatable, bacterial infections, warned the World Health Organization.